Joe Mauer has an interesting career which has made fans debate his Hall of Fame candidacy for years now. Now that it’s his first year on the ballot, the debates are getting even more intensified. Mauer spent seven years of his career solely behind the plate. In the early-2010s, he started to see playing time at first base because of concussions. Then by 2014, he was playing first base full time.
Mauer was a great hitter, regardless of his position. He was a career .306/.388/.439 batter with a 124 OPS+. Mauer was never a power hitter and fell seven homers short of 150. But he hit 428 doubles and averaged 37 a season. He also drew nearly as many walks (939) as times he struck out (1034). Of the 14 years Mauer played at least 50 games, he had an OPS+ of 100 or greater in 13 of them.
Mauer did reach some noteworthy milestones, such as 2000 hits (2123) and +50 bWAR (+55.3). In the end, Mauer played at least half of his career behind the plate and is one of 11 backstops with 2000+ hits. Of those 11 catchers, he had the 4th best OPS+, just 1% behind Yogi Berra and 2% behind Johnny Bench.
Mauer was obviously a good defensive catcher throughout his career, but was even a better defensive first baseman. He had +21 defensive runs saved at first. But overall, between hi solid hitting and quality defense at two positions, he had +55.2 bWAR. That’s pretty good for someone who spent over 60% of their innings in the field behind the plate.
So how do I see Joe Mauer? He was a great hitter who played two positions to a well above average level. Had they not been on the two extremes of the defensive spectrum, there would probably be much less debate about if he is deserving of the Hall of Fame or not. But over +50 bWAR, 2000 hits and a closet full of accolades is good enough for me to give him a vote.